I read “real” graphic novels. Adult, violent, sexy, bloody, complicated graphic novels. I read graphic novels that can be explicated ad nauseum for symbolism and deeper meaning. I read graphic novels with “gravitas.” So it’s no wonder that when I read Raina Telgemeier’s Smile I scoffed. I was reading comics to put in our school library, and I came across Smile after I finished Vera Brosgol’s Anya’s Ghost (GREAT book) and here’s what I saw: SCHOLASTIC in that bright red, made-for-grade-school-book-fairs logo. All I could think was “Kid’s stuff..PFFT!” But I read it. And I dug it! Telgemeier’s voice is one that I did not know I was missing until I read her stuff; in fact, I would say her voice is sorely missing. Don’t get me wrong, Smile is not adult or sexy or bloody (well, not much), but it’s a real graphic novel. I am not the audience for her stuff, but I still got into it. And then she wrote Sisters.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and not because I have siblings (I’m an only child). I enjoyed it because there is a shift in style from Smile to Sisters that seems a little more…mature. I mean, it’s mature in the sense that Raina the character matures between the two books, and it’s only natural that the story takes on that maturity. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a book for young readers, but Telgemeier has definitely elevated her storytelling for this book, and there’s even a setup for a follow up that promises even more.
But what really sells this book is how fun and full of heart it is. Telgemeier’s art is clean completely in service to the story. Think of it as a director who really wants to viewer to experience the story more than relying on visual flash to carry the film; that’s what she’s doing with this book. The art is also accessible, which is important given the target demographic for this book. Clearly Sisters is a comic for kids who don’t think they like comics, or don’t think comics are for them. Yet, what Sisters does is tell a relatable story, and gives first time comics readers an easy entrance into the comics world.
Good for ages: I’d say 8 and up. This is a fun read, and the basic layouts offer little resistance for comprehension. I think younger kids and older kids could relate to the sibling relationship, and the feeling that everyone around you is more mature than you are.
Classroom Rating: 9/10. As much as I dug this book, I know I’m not the target demo. Yet, it’s still a great book, and I really enjoyed it. I would recommend it for the middle school classroom in a heartbeat.
What Could You Teach with Sisters? Sisters would fit well with a memoir unit or even in a lit circle. When Eric and I presented our panel on engaging female students through comics at New York Comic Con, Raina Telgemeier was brought up constantly as a writer that our girls would love. I think Sisters could be the gateway drug to a lot more reading.
Highlights: The humor is the highlight here. There are quite a few genuine moments of laughter here, as well as a few true tearjerker moments as well.